Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 06, 2012

People Don't Like Living in a Pluralistic Society

I tend to ignore virtually all boycott demands, so even if I hadn't been mad enough to be trying to write a novel in 31 days, I wouldn't have had much to say about the Great Chick-fil-A controversy. However, as the whole thing begins to die back down into the background radiation of the culture war, it strikes me that this fracas in particular provides a good example of how deeply uncomfortable people are with the idea of actually living in a pluralistic society.

Realistically speaking, when you go to buy a sandwich, the only belief of the sandwich purveyor you really count on is a belief in producing good sandwiches. However, we tend not to like to think that in buying a sandwich we're helping someone who holds beliefs which are odious to us. As last week's convulsions showed, this is very much the case even with those who claim that they like a pluralistic society. The same people who pride themselves on seeking out racially mixed neighborhoods and ethnic cuisines would not necessarily be pleased were they to know that those picturesque "others" actually hold beliefs that are, well, other. People may like the idea of a pluralistic society, but in reality they like to think that everyone they interact with agrees with them on the "important things".

I don't feel any differently. I also wish that I could mostly interact with other people who agreed with me on the issues that are important to me. However, I do feel that I have something of an outside view on the phenomenon in that I've always been aware that my views are sufficiently in the minority in the wider society that it's best to assume that virtually no one I interact with actually shares all my most deeply held religious and political convictions. Those who think of their views as being held by all sane and nice people seem far more likely to go into a tailspin when they find out that this is not actually the case.


Jennifer Fitz said...


RL said...

I don't know, friend. I think for all things you're saying here that resonate as truth, the key key component is missing. I don't think it's so much that people are opposed to living in a pluralistic society - though some certainly are. I would say much of the world is opposed to it. I suspect the more homogeneous a culture is, the less likely it will a appreciate any pluralism. However, this is in the context of the USA - and it's the one place where people are/should be content with a pluralistic society.

As Chesterton said, America is the only country founded upon a creed. That creed was so appealing to so many peoples of different cultures, it was the one thread that made pluralism tolerated and even appreciated.

I think our problem now is that so many in our society have abandoned (or are ignorant of) the underlying unifying principles that once defined America. Without that "creed" or something similar, we are a bunch of unconnected tribesman thrown into a pen together and having a turf war.

There are many causes for this I believe, and I'm not at all confident that our nation will survive as a nation in the long run due to it, but I don't think it sets squarely on the fact that Americans hate pluralism - it's that most Americans are not American in the sense of having that character the nation was founded on or that drew so many people from around the world like moths to a lamp.

Darwin said...


I agree to an extent, though I'd say that the US has historically embraced pluralism within certain set bounds (and even then it's been an uneasy embrace at time.) The issue now is that society can no longer agree on what those bounds are.

RL said...

I think we're saying the same thing for the most part, but in a different manner - or at least they largely overlap. I agree with your diagnosis about the bounds and that they are now in question, but I think traditionally speaking it wasn't just that there were a set of bounds that were broad enough for many to embrace. There was something much more positive at work, a thing that made bounds much less a thing to even be conscious of - a thing so unifying that in spite of our fallen nature and bigotries, we could have a pluralistic society.

I ramble...pardon. Simply put: The US never embraced pluralism for the sake of pluralism, it embraced a vision about the dignity of man and that appealed to so many diverse people it pluralism as we understand it was a side effect.

Crude said...

I think RL has hit an important point, yeah. Pluralism requires a common ground. It's like a conversation - to truly converse with someone, you need mutual respect, and enough in common. If either or both of those things are lacking, there is no conversation taking place - just two people talking at each other.

mandamum said...

for conversation, you need at the most basic level to be speaking mostly the same language ;)